Upland rice is on the rise

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Monday, July 4, 2011


UPLAND rice is making a comeback. And rightly, so. The country needs to strengthen production of all available staple food commodities if it wants to feed its ever growing population.

With the Department of Agriculture's Agri-Pinoy programs, upland rice production is being given the importance and support it rightly deserves, a remarkable contrast to the agency's previous program thrust, where almost all interventions were focused on the production of hybrid and inbred rice, which are concentrated mainly on lowland-irrigated rice areas.

At present, data gathering on the existing upland rice farming systems nationwide and inventory of the remaining upland rice varieties are on-going. Just recently, representatives from indigenous peoples (IPs), peoples' organizations (POs), non-government organizations (NGOs), Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) coordinators, LGUs, PLGUs and IPM-Kasakalikasan coordinators coming from different regions with existing upland rice farming, have undergone Module 1 -- Training of Trainors' (TOT) on upland rice-based farming system, at Northern Mindanao Integrated Agricultural Research Center (Nomiarc), Dalwangan, Malaybalay City in Bukidnon.

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What is upland rice?

Upland rice is grown in areas without bunds or paddies. It is usually aromatic, tall and late maturing, and is usually grown organically, with lesser cultural practices or management intervention.

It requires lesser amount of water to grow, and growing this type of rice is closely tied up with the IP's culture and traditions. These plants are very location-specific and usually thrive in areas with higher elevation. However, these rice varieties are low-yielding compared to lowland rice varieties.

Planting of upland rice has already been practiced by IPs in the Philippines. These are usually done in small areas and in the highlands were most of the IPs live or settle, and the varieties they plant are usually connected with their identity as a clan or a tribe. In some tribes in the hinterlands of Davao City, they have a specific rice variety used for "medication" for a specific illness or disease.

Productions of upland rice were not properly recorded since the previous administration focused mainly on lowland rice production. Thus, with minimal or no government intervention at all, upland rice farmers cultivate only a small area for subsistence only, following traditional or customary laws.

The source of seeds for planting is generally transferred from generation to generation without the benefit of the technology on seed purification, plant breeding, and other advanced technologies commonly practiced in the lowland areas’ rice seed production. In most tribes in the uplands of the Davao Region, the task of safeguarding the rice seeds belong to the women of the community.

NGOs and POs working and operating in the upland rice areas are usually the main repository of the technology on upland rice production, keeping tract of the existing upland rice varieties and even keeping a few samples of the upland rice seeds.

Upland Rice Varieties in Davao

There are hundreds of upland rice varieties identified in the Davao Region. To name a few: Magkidang; Perya (Red and white); Magpong-pong; Libo-libo; Ilaynon; Pinili; Remuletes (Red); Sinamao; Bangon; Mamintana; Manumbaay; Hinumay; Naylon; and Kabuong. Other upland rice varieties available in the country includes: Kapunsa; Asuzena; Higante; Kadapog; Buyukot; Dayugo; Panghagwason; Intaw; Telepono; Baysan; Kabunaw; Dinorado; Tapol (malagkit and non- malagkit); Tipuno; and Karamkam.

Government interventions

At present, the government through the Department of Agriculture (DA) and PhilRice is procuring and dispersing upland rice seeds and at the same time intensifying baseline data gathering, documentation and monitoring of indigenous farmers’ practices, with several activities lined up in the near future such as intensification of upland rice-based cropping system, promotion of "Likasaka" or Likas na Pagsasaka in upland rice-based farming system and the Farmers' Field School (FFS).

With successful implementation of the FFS it is expected that production management will improve and with this it would be possible for farmers to practice two cropping cycles per year, thus increasing total production as well as the farmers' incomes. The whole program will target a total of around 830 hectares, benefiting some 674 farmers in the uplands of Davao del Norte., Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 04, 2011.

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